THE WEEK IN WOMEN news roundup: EEOC seeking settlement with Hollywood studios over discrimination charges, while Ellen Burstyn and St. Vincent make directorial debuts
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is in settlement talks with the major Hollywood studios to resolve charges that they systemically discriminated against female directors, Deadline is reporting.
According to Deadline, every major studio has received a charge contending that they failed to hire women directors. The EEOC is reportedly attempting to resolve the charges but, if unable to, may file a lawsuit.
As previously reported, the EEOC began investigating allegations of Hollywood’s discriminatory hiring practices against female directors in fall 2015. The investigation is over and has moved into the settlement phase, according to Deadline.
The Directors Guild recently tried to get the studios to embrace a program similar to the National Football League’s Rooney Rule, a policy that requires league teams to interview minority candidates when filling head coaching and senior football operation jobs. During the DGA’s contract negotiations in December, the guild urged studios to adopt a similar rule that would have required producers to interview female and minority candidates when hiring for directing jobs. The companies, however, declined to discuss the proposal “for legal reasons.” Deadline reports that it now confirmed that the “legal reasons” involved their settlement talks with the EEOC.
This is promising news due in large part to the efforts of director Maria Giese, who took her discrimination experiences to the American Civil Liberties Union, which in turn requested that the EEOC investigate. Back when all this started back in fall 2015, Fortune did a great Q&A with Giese that you can read here.
Ellen Burstyn to make directorial debut
At the age of 84, actress Ellen Burstyn is adding director to her long and impressive resume, which already includes an Oscar, an Emmy and a Tony.
Burstyn will make her feature helming debut with the comedy “Bathing Flo,” which will be produced and financed by upstart QC Entertainment. The “Interstellar” actress will also co-star in the film and executive produce, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
With “Bathing Flo,” Burstyn joins Eleanor Coppola as that rare octogenarian making a narrative directing debut. The 80-year-old Coppola’s “Paris Can Wait” debuted at the Toronto International Film Festival in September. But both she and Burstyn are younger than record holder Takeo Kimura, who was 90 when his “Dreaming Awake” was released in 2008, according to the trade publication.
“Bathing Flo” is inspired by the true story of a down-on-his-luck man who is offered the opportunity to house-sit in exchange for free rent. What isn’t mentioned is that an eccentric woman named Flo (Burstyn) is part of the bargain. They eventually agree, albeit reluctantly, to share the apartment, along with vital life lessons.
Actress Lauren Lake, who will co-star in the film, wrote the screenplay, which was based on an initial draft by Danny Brocklehurst and Danny Sherman. Casting is currently underway, with production set to begin in the spring in New York.
Burstyn lacks only a Grammy to claim a rare EGOT. She won an Oscar in 1975 for Martin Scorsese’s “Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore” (she has been nominated four other times, most recently for Darren Aronofsky’s 2000 drama “Requiem for a Dream”), an Emmy for a guest appearance on “Law & Order: SVU” (she most recently received a nomination for her performance as Elizabeth Hale on “House of Cards”) and a Tony for Bernard Slade’s “Same Time, Next Year.”
Rocker St. Vincent makes frightening directorial debut with ‘XX’
Experimental rocker St. Vincent (aka Annie Clark, who like me, is an Oklahoma native) makes her directorial debut as part of “XX,” an all-female horror anthology that premiered at the Sundance Film Festival last month and arrived in theaters and on Video on Demand, Amazon Video and iTunes Friday.
In a Q&A with Emily Yoshida for Vulture, St. Vincent described her short film “The Birthday Party” as “‘Weekend at Bernie’s’ meets ‘Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?’” St. Vincent’s segment stars Melanie Lynskey (“The Intervention”) as an especially desperate housewife.
“The story was based on one a friend of mine told me, just this woman waking up in a house with a dead body, and having to make very split-second decisions to protect the innocence of children,” St. Vincent said. “We started out writing it, and initially it was kind of a very heavy, wooden mahogany dark-wood opera piece, and then we got halfway through with it and we realized we had written a comedy. And so we kind of changed, and shifted focus. The visual aesthetic of the full piece helps really frame the absurdity.”
St. Vincent composed her own score and developed a color palette Yoshida describes as “oppressively cheery.” The Grammy winner said one overarching theme of her short is the “true horror in the way women get trained to be misogynistic.”
“I don’t know the horror genre that well because I’m too scared to watch it. But I think of people like Michael Haneke, or Claire Denis. Or even, like, ‘Happiness’ by Todd Solondz is a horror film to me,” St. Vincent said.
“I’d love to do it again. I love the collaboration, I love the adrenaline, I love working with the actors. I love watching stuff come together. I definitely want to direct more — write and direct more, and even be in front of the camera. I don’t know, it’s all very exciting to me.”
To find out how you can see “XX,” click here.
NASA historian confirms ‘Hidden Figures’ climax is based on fact
As previously reported, “Hidden Figures,” the period drama about the pioneering African-American women who did vital work as mathematicians, engineers and computer programmers during the space race of the 1960s, is the inspirational story of this year’s cinematic awards season, with three nominations going into the Feb. 26 Academy Awards.
Now NASA’s chief historian, Bill Barry, has confirmed for CNET that the film’s dramatic finale is based on fact, although it didn’t go down quite as the movie shows it.
“One thing we’re frequently asked,” he said, “is whether or not John Glenn actually asked for Katherine Johnson to ‘check the numbers.’”
The answer is yes: Glenn, the first American in orbit, really did ask for Johnson to manually check calculations generated by IBM 7090 computers.
Although the film shows Glenn asking for Johnson’s approval from the launch pad, she was actually called in well before the launch. Calculating the output for 11 different variables to eight significant digits took a day and a half. Her calculations matched the computer’s results exactly, giving Glenn and everyone else confidence in the upcoming launch.
However, the historian tells CNET that no one dramatically took a crowbar to the sign for a colored women’s restroom as Kevin Costner’s fictional character does in “Hidden Figures.”
“Desegregation of bathroom and dining facilities happened gradually and quietly over the 1950s at Langley lab,” Barry said. Langley lab was a federal facility but was located in Virginia, which had state-mandated segregation. “There was some tension between local and federal ‘rules’ on this issue,” Barry said.
To add to the accuracy of the film, NASA consulted on the film’s script, answering questions and providing photographs, documents and films for the filmmakers. NASA even loaned a few items for use as props in the movie.
I’ll be rooting for “Hidden Figures” when the Oscars air Feb. 26 on ABC.
-BAMexplore: Academy Awards | ACLU | discrimination | EEOC | Ellen Burstyn | Hidden Figures | horror | Maria Giese | NASA | Oscars | St. Vincent | The Birthday Party | XX